Battle Princess of Arcadias is a new game from NIS America, Inc that attempts to blend together traditional side-scrolling combat with a JRPG, but falls flat in the face of such a task. Lackluster storyline, two-dimensional characters and no real plot to speak of are combined with intense grinding and upgrading that leave the player without any sense of achievement or accomplishment.
To be fair, the game offers some lovely graphics, and the combat system is actually fun to play but when a game has you grind the first area you were in within the first twenty minutes you know it’s going to be rough. It’s not all bad, for sure, but is what little payout the game offers really worth the countless hours you’ll spend grinding the same levels and monsters just to get further in a story that makes no sense?
The game takes place in the kingdom of Schwert and only lightly glazes over why you’re actually here. You start out controlling the Battle Princess, Plume, as she tries to save her Princess Brigade from a powerful dragon. The monsters in the game don’t seem to vary much from place to place, instead playing on the tried and true “this is an ice/fire/earth enemy” with appropriate recolors for each. The combat system at this point is still pretty standard, the combos aren’t terribly hard to learn and you have three heroes you can swap out at a moment’s notice who each do different things.
The part that stands out for Battle Princess of Arcadias isn’t the basic combat, but the skirmish and siege combat modes. In Skirmish modes, your hero of choice faces off against another leader with an entire brigade to back them up. The fun part here is experimenting with different types of brigade units – like ranged, melee or magic – and seeing which works best against your current foe. You control not only your hero but the brigade as well and can order them to defend, attack or retreat as you see fit. Each group also has a special ability they can do once their morale meter is full and it’s honestly pretty cool to see. It takes some time to learn how to juggle the brigade commands well but it’s worth it once you’ve painfully stumbled through.
Sieges are very similar to skirmishes but instead of fighting off a whole group of enemies and leaders, you’re fighting just one big bad guy. The best tip I can give you for Sieges is to learn how to defend. If you can’t hit that defend button fast enough, chances are that enemy is going to end you and your brigade pretty quickly. To be completely honest, the novelty of the combat system wears off pretty quickly once you realize that it’s just a never ending stream of those three styles with very little variation. In the end it becomes just one laborious grind.
The graphics for this game are beautiful and – as many others have noted – remind the player strongly of Odin Sphere. Bright colors, cel shading and classic stylized visuals are a huge draw for this game, and would play well into the plot for Battle Princess of Arcadias if there happened to be any. The story teases you with what seem to be the beginning, or even the middle, of complex story-lines yet fails completely to go anywhere. There’s plenty of opportunity to talk to other characters, but the interactions are sure to leave you with more questions than answers. Most of the game is spent wondering when you’ll find out why certain things are happening, or even why the king is so happy to be a duck, but you’ll never find out. It’s as if the developers wanted to give it a story but someone somewhere decided that it simply wasn’t necessary and had it all cut out of the game.
Battle Princess of Arcadias would have been a really good game, well worth the price tag, if only they had given it a little more care and nurtured the plot even a little bit. So much of the reasoning of the characters is buried inside of interactions and past events that we never see or even hear about except in brief passing comments that it’s very hard to become invested in any of them. The end of the game left me not only confused by the sudden roll of the credits, but actually infuriated at the lack of any kind of closure. You knew only barely more than you had when you started and the game was over. Grinding for hours and hours to upgrade your brigade and equipment and it ends with absolutely no explanation or finality at all. Perhaps they did it this way to keep the door open for a sequel? In the end the game seems rushed and unfinished, leaving the player to imagine what the answers might be.